John Crist: Sunday's preseason game has an unusual amount of drama around it because of the quarterback situation. Compare the feeling in Denver now regarding Jay Cutler to how it was back in April, right after the trade happened. Do the fans feel better or worse about not having him anymore?
The problem's been that the team's in a constant state of denial, starting at the top, about the fact they're rebuilding. Both ownership and management have spun the concept that 8-8 is not good enough and they expect much more in the first year of the Josh McDaniels era. Given that scenario, there's not a lot of confidence that either quarterback can pull that one off.
JC: Orton has taken a lot of heat from the moment he put on a Broncos uniform. Apparently, he's not even guaranteed to win the starting job since the support for Simms only seems to be increasing. Like Brian Griese replacing John Elway, is Orton doomed to fail replacing Cutler?
MJS: The difference in the Griese-Elway changeover was the fact that everyone loved Elway – Cutler wasn't so lucky.
Orton stands a great chance of coming out on top if he can simply produce some wins. McDaniels publicly named him the starter before training camp and continued to stand behind him after the three-interception debacle against San Francisco, so he's got the support from management. His 18-of-26 for 186 yards in Seattle last week made huge strides in winning the fan support. Now it's up to him to keep it.
JC: While he may have more natural ability than any receiver in the league, Brandon Marshall has proven to be a handful both on and off the field. People here in Chicago seem to think reuniting him with Cutler would be a brilliant move. If you were the Bears, would you dare get him and pay him?
MJS: Personally, I'd find it pretty difficult to throw out a lot of cash on a player who still hasn't even bothered to learn the playbook three weeks after camp opened, is about one step away from a league suspension if he can't keep clean and is coming off hip surgery that may or may not have a serious impact on the upcoming season.
It's a gamble, and I'm inclined to think the Powerball odds might be slightly better.
JC: If Cutler had any support from his defense last year, perhaps the trade never happens in the first place. Now the Broncos are switching to a 3-4, much like the Packers are doing here in the NFC North. How much of the defensive roster will have to be purged, and how's the transition coming along?
JC: If Cutler had been able to pull off just one win in the Broncos' last three games, which would have clinched the playoffs, Mike Shanahan would probably still be King of the Castle, Cutler would be "The "Guy," Marshall wouldn't be pouting and Denver could have spent the entire offseason revamping into a 3-4 alignment.
OK, maybe not. But the point is with all the changes in the personnel, coaching staff and game plan, the Broncos failed to address the most glaring weakness defensively: nose tackle. To date, we're still waiting.
JC: The Bears have battled injuries and ineffectiveness at safety for a while, and now Mike Brown is in Kansas City. But the front office decided to build from within at that position, while Denver spent some money on aging veteran Brian Dawkins. How much does the Pro Bowler have left in the tank?
MJS: From what we initially saw in camp, he's got plenty left. Then he broke his right hand and was forced to undergo surgery, which has sidelined him for both of Denver's preseason games.
The Broncos have shown a talent for getting the best out of older veterans, especially in the defensive backfield, e.g. John Lynch, and expectations are high that a Dawkins-Champ Bailey combo will be the lone bright spot on an otherwise mediocre defense.
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Behind Enemy Lines: Part II
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